Nancy Elgie’s resignation as a trustee from the York Region District School Board (YRDSB) is a good thing, but let’s be clear that it’s only a step in the right direction.
The school board has been in the news frequently over the past few months about allegations of racism. Nancy Elgie’s use of the n word (no matter what the reason) is one isolated incident of many – some also involving her, it seems – that signal a systemic problem.
What refusing to resign – and getting away with it – does, is show people where your allegiances lie. When we make a mistake that is so egregious, sorry is not good enough. A more powerful symbol of change is required. And the reason for the mistake (as it’s been labeled) doesn’t really matter. Using it at all is a reminder of how deep racism is embedded – in our psyche and in our society.
Marginalized communities consistently and swiftly bear the consequences of their actions – even those only assumed to have taken place. The fact that it has taken so long for Nancy Elgie to resign (can trustees be fired?) speaks to whose voices are heard, taken seriously and honoured, and to the systemic nature of racism.
So now we move on. I hope that Nancy Elgie and her racist comment wasn’t serving as a distraction for the larger issues happening at the YRDSB, and that the report that will be delivered by consultants (and for which they have had to stop in-person interviews, now relying on email because of volume) will not only be taken seriously, but acted upon.
Reports have recommendations that need to be implemented and taken seriously. Reports and policies help, but they are only as good as the people who are charged with ensuring they are living documents. In the meantime, we need to create opportunities to hear and see each other and to re-imagine the future.